If the EU referendum’s build up, grand moment and ensuing results have shown me anything, it’s really that no one truly has a clue what’s going on. I feel we all became a bit like Leo in The Go-Between (a brilliant book I’m close to finishing, having never read it before); certain that there are wrongs and rights out there, possibly even graspable, certainly fascinating, write-down-able in our diaries and letters as grand things to be held onto, yet subject to being rocked at a moment’s whim, and as changeable as the weather. Intelligent people all around me have passionately disagreed with each other; views have been completely unpredictable. Discovering what those around you have voted necessitates a new sort of coming-of-age – one fraught with misunderstanding and revelation and the feeling of being suddenly clear on things, then hopelessly shocked.
Then again, I have found the entire thing enormously boring (the worst possible insult to be inflicted on anything, Leo concludes halfway through the book, and especially wounding as an insult when declared in French), which I’m sure is a mark of my naivety, and my reluctance to engage with it was also due to my huge, huge discomfort about the fact that the whole debate seemed to have become pinned on the topic of immigration, and the conflation of immigration and taking in refugees. When described as a concern for ‘numbers’, of course, the whole thing appears to sound slightly less preposterous, but even so, I learned a long time ago (was diagnosed by an Irish photographer) that I am ‘an idealist’, and this has remained a likely condition ever since; as a sort of litmus test which I employ for various issues, I have clung to an image of myself having to personally say ‘no’ to people trying to get in to ‘our’ country through its borders (perhaps standing at some kind of cliff edge – those lines as imaginary as the international date line; a squiggle on a map – perhaps with a clipboard and a flag) and consistently fail to see myself being either inclined or capable of deciding to turn people away; therefore, I have to oppose an ideology which makes doing so its focus (and really, when facts are so blurred into a pageant of nonsense, ideology is the only thing a voter can try to hold onto). In case not clear, there is a lot of comedy (for me) involved in the notion that we can be born in a certain place and then become very indignant and proud and possessive over its geographical space, standing up on the highest parts of the ground we can find at the time, hands on hips, saying ‘no’ to perfect strangers as if we are quite important and entitled. I suppose I am the least patriotic person on earth; I would be terrible in a war.
Anyway, in the final week or two I decided to engage and got a bit passionate about the EU referendum, enough so, at least, to feel quite shocked at 4.45am yesterday morning (I woke up only accidentally, but then was transfixed for hours by the exuberant yellow/blue dance performed by the various graphs online which tracked, minute by minute, the constituencies’ conclusions) that the nation has (marginally) chosen to leave the EU. Not as shocked, though, as those who apparently and in their own words (shown in embarrassing TV interviews), say they didn’t realise their votes would actually count, and now claim to regret their ballot-paper choices; and shocked, too, to learn that I had, for once, voted in line with the Oxfordshire constituency on a national question.
Anyway, call me fickle, but I am less affected today. I have decided to be. Onwards, and outwards, and inwards; but particuarly onwards. I might apply for a German passport at some point, just in case, but this feels dramatic (not to mention hideously unfair that I can when others don’t have that luxury); anyway, I am today more interested in what’s going to happen to Leo in the final pages, and am shunning world-wide despair in favour of articles which make me and my world feel surreal and unworldly (such as this one, which also comes with a splendid misuse of the word ‘literally’ in its title – always pleasing). (Of course, the entire world is in a speck of dust or the turn of a page, so everything does matter, but the best outward unification comes from self-awareness, innit?) This, I suppose, is the proud and shameful and crucial and mighty art of escape. I think we’ll be OK, as we go between; in the words of an ex who gave me this most important lesson in life for which I am always grateful, it’ll be OK, because it has to be, doesn’t it?